Deanna Littell's Charm School


In Editor's Desk on July 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm


The whole world seems to be mad about Mad Men. This peek into the glamorous world of the advertising business in the late 50s when women were women, men were men and “let’s take lunch” meant at least 2 martinis. Without cell phones to interrupt, work might actually get done at these liquid lunches.  This period charms and fascinates for more than just the smoking, drinking and womanizing.  The whole concept of advertising dramatically shifted as new agencies fearlessly took stylistic and graphic risks. Mary Wells (of Wells Rich Greene) convinced Braniff to paint their airplanes fuchsia, orange, and lime green and dressed the stewardesses in Pucci prints. While watching the show, however, one wonders how they came up with such brilliant ad campaigns when the brainstorming meetings seemed more like cocktail parties.  If you’re wondering what they’re drinking, it’s old fashioneds. If you’re curious, here’s the recipe (from Esquire):

1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
splash of club soda
2 ounces rye whiskey

Place the sugar cube (or 1/2 teaspoon loose sugar) in an Old-Fashioned glass. Wet it down with 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and a short splash of water or club soda. Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler, chopstick, strong spoon, lipstick, cartridge case, whatever. Rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining. Add a large ice cube. Pour in the rye (or bourbon). Serve with a stirring rod. (For a fantastic demonstration see here).

In portraying so precisely the fashion, decor and lifestyle of the era, the show taps into the zeitgeist of now and our longing for a time when charm was a way of life. Designers in every field are mining the design ethos of the time and making us yearn for all things 60’s. From a men’s clothing line at Banana Republic to Janie Bryant’s (the show’s costume designer) MOD clothing line at QVC, you’re beginning to see how everyone is charmed by Mad Men. And we have much to look forward to as Alessandra Stanley alludes to in her recent NYT article, ” The show is on the cusp of a huge change.”

There’s even a blog called The Footnotes of Mad Men that illuminates the cultural and social allusions on the show and helps us with all the references we’ve missed (see Reading List). In advertising today, we still see the strong influence of the best agencies of this period. My top prize for the most charming ad campaign goes to Target for their Manhattan store opening.

See you soon, and until next time, don’t forget to check out my charms at

More Summer Reading:

Mad Men Unbuttoned by Natasha Vargas Cooper. This is like Cliff Notes to the show.

Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara. Contains the poem read and voiced-over by Don Draper.

Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons.  A photographic look into the glamour of those times.

  1. I love this Mad Men blog! Thank you!

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